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  • Suchitra Mattai | Cultural Encounters

    Suchitra Mattai (Guyana, b. 1974) Suchitra Mattai’s family has its roots in the wave of Indian migrants who arrived in British Guiana over a century ago to work as indentured servants. An immigrant herself, Mattai left Guyana when she was three years old and has since lived in Wolfville, Nova Scotia; Udaipur, India; and, in the United States, in Philadelphia, New York, Minneapolis, and Denver, where she currently resides. She received her MFA in painting and drawing and her MA in South Asian art from the University of Pennsylvania; while pursuing her PhD in South Asian art, she opted to become a full-time artist. Mattai is a multimedia artist who works with painting, collage, installation, video, and sculpture. Her materials range from found paintings and clippings from National Geographic to needlepoint and embroidery. ​ Mattai’s highly conceptual pieces deal with issues of identity and the role of women in the arts while challenging suppressive narratives such as those associated with colonialism. Using landscape as a metaphor for an imagined identity, she creates multilayered conceptual landscapes out of the hegemonic detritus of colonialism—repurposing materials such as textiles to reflect on the imprint of colonialism on her family history, or on the role of women in artistic discourse. In her creative process, Mattai (in her words) “collaborates with the past,” using found objects and appropriating cultural, historic, and domestic elements. Her work also illuminates her concept of home and family, as she explains: “Through family narratives, memories, and photographs, I have always been reminded of my homeland, yet simultaneously felt alienated from it. My family’s migratory path from Guyana to Canada to the United States never led to a place of connection.” ​ In El Dorado After All , a work of woven mixed-media based on a found photo of a possible location of El Dorado (the legendary kingdom of gold sought by conquistadors), Mattai explores the idea of home and colonization, while referencing the weaving practices of her mother and grandmothers, which she uses as a metaphor for the interlacing of cultures. ​ Similarly, in her collage Untitled , Mattai fuses together fragments of her past—including images of Hindu goddesses and scraps of knitting magazines from the 1950s and 1960s—in search of a lucid cultural identity and that ever-elusive sense of connection. back to collection

  • Hiroyuki Okumura | Cultural Encounters

    Hiroyuki Okumura (Japan, b. 1963) Hiroyuki Okumura was born in Kanazawa, Japan, in 1963, and earned his master’s degree at the School of Fine Arts, Kanazawa. In 1989 he relocated to Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, thanks to the influence of his mentor Kiyoshi Takahashi, whose fascination with Mexican pre-Columbian art was sparked in 1955, when an exhibition of more than a thousand artworks came to Tokyo’s National Museum. In 1958, Takahashi began his frequent visits to Xalapa, which deeply influenced his artistic production. Takahashi passed this enthusiasm on to Okumura, who, at his urging, soon settled in Mexico and was similarly inspired by its extraordinary artworks and culture. Okumura’s sculptures have always been shaped to some degree by the raw materials that have been at his disposal in (respectively) Japan and Mexico. Although he experimented with stone in Japan, he primarily worked with wood, which has been that country’s main construction material for centuries. Once in Mexico, however, Okumura was able to transition to what is now his preferred medium—stone—including volcanic rocks, marble, and river rocks. Stone has long been Mexico’s primary construction material, used most famously by the pre-Columbians for their large-scale pyramids as well as for their sculptures and artisanal objects. One of the qualities of stone that Okumura most values is its timelessness: it is always, he says, “silent and stable.” It is perhaps this—as well as its virtuosity and intensity—that Okumura most admires about Mexican pre-Columbian work. In his large-format architectonic sculptures, as well as in his medium- and small-sized work, Okumura draws inspiration from his Japanese background, while also availing himself of the Mexican spontaneity he so reveres. Okumura is a founding member of the Jardín de Escultural de Xalapa. His public works can be seen in Japan, Mexico, Bulgaria, and France, and he has been widely exhibited in the United States, Mexico, Japan, and France. back to collection

  • M.P. Alladin | Cultural Encounters

    M.P. Alladin (Trinidad and Tobago, B. 1919 – D. 1980) Born in Tacarigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Mohammed Pharouk Alladin was one of the first visual artists to emerge from the country’s large Indian population. He was most influential, however, as an art educator. He earned his teaching certificate in Trinidad, after the British Council awarded him a scholarship to the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts; and in the United States he earned his master’s degree from Columbia University. Alladin founded Trinidad’s Art Teachers’ Association, and also served as Director of Culture in the Ministry of Education and Culture for many years. In his own words, “[E]ducation through art should be given the greatest attention if more complete individuals are to be produced by educational institutions.” Alladin was also a gifted author who produced some notable research papers on Trinidad’s local culture. His written work is still widely used as reference material on Trinidad’s traditions. As a fine artist, Alladin won renown throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, and Europe, exhibiting in two group shows at the Organization of American States. Most importantly, he was an advocate for the inclusion of both Trinidadian and Indian themes in the work of local artists, at a time when most painters were trained to favor Western or European traditional subject matter. Stylistically, Alladin’s works treat Trinidadian and Indian subjects with a modernist approach. The subjects of M.P. Alladin’s work range from rural scenes depicting the daily life of Trinidadian farmers in the 1970s to urban landscapes of the island; from Hindu festivities—such as the New Year celebration known as Phagwa, a favorite subject of Alladin’s, which reveals the importance of his Indian heritage to his oeuvre—to more experimental scenes, such as his acrylic on canvas The Palms from 1973. The latter work integrates figurative motifs of the island through the use of a palette inspired by its geography, juxtaposing black and red-toned palm fronds over a background that uses the same technique, layering fronds in shades of blue, yellow, and purple. In this way, Alladin combines an organic pattern with a geometric one (a grid). Alladin’s work in the 1970s focused extensively on the exploration of these contrasting patterns. The Palms was shown for the first time at the Organization of American States in 1973 in the exhibition Tribute to Picasso and was acquired for the Organization’s permanent collection in 1976. Tribute to Picasso | Homenaje a Picasso OAS exhibition brochure, 1973 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas Tribute to Picasso | Homenaje a Picasso OAS exhibition brochure, 1973 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas 1/2 back to collection

  • Carlos Runcie Tanaka | Cultural Encounters

    Carlos Runcie Tanaka (Peru, b. 1958) Carlos Runcie Tanaka is of Japanese, English, and Peruvian descent. His maternal grandfather, Guillermo Shinichi Tanaka, emigrated from Japan in the 1920s, but died young, never meeting his grandson. Tanaka’s grandmother, however, sought to preserve her late husband’s heritage by instilling in her family a reverence for Japanese culture. Tanaka studied Japanese as a child, and during his youth began to explore ceramics as an art form, inspired by the work of British artist Bernard Leach and the Japanese artist Shoji Hamada. Between 1979 and 1980, Tanaka studied in Japan, in the villages of Ogaya and Mashiko—both renowned for their traditional Japanese utilitarian pottery—as a deshi (ceramist apprentice) under the artists Tsukima Masahiko and Tatsuzo Shimaoka. Upon returning to Peru, he acquired a new appreciation for his native country’s deserts, coasts, and mountains, and began to incorporate their evocative qualities into his work. In the early 1980s, he traveled to the southern Andes to learn from the potters of the town of Izcuchaca, and in 1982 studied advanced ceramics in Italy through a grant from the Organization of American States and the Italian Government. In 1989, Tanaka exhibited his work for the first time at the Art Museum of the Americas. Tanaka’s innovative sculpture integrates traditional pottery methods with geological elements and an interethnic universal symbolism. It responds to—but does not limit itself to—traditional Peruvian, Japanese, and European aesthetics. In addition to his ceramic work, Tanaka has also developed a series of installations incorporating paper, video, and glass. In 1994, Tanaka began a series of installations based on concepts of memory, journey, and displacement. Using crabs constructed from origami, ceramic, and glass as metaphors for the Japanese immigrant experience, Tanaka linked his sculptural work to the legacy of the Japanese grandfather he never knew. The idea of using the crab as a migratory symbol came to him after seeing, at the Cerro Azul beach in Peru, a monument to Japanese immigrants that was surrounded by dead crabs. In the early 2000s, after experiencing a heart issue, he went on to produce a major paper installation entitled Into White/Hacia el Blanco , and continues to be prolific in his pottery work as well. Parallel Propositions | Works in Clay. OAS exhibition brochure, 1989 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas Parallel Propositions | Works in Clay. OAS exhibition brochure, 1989 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas 1/2 back to collection

  • Bernadette Persaud | Cultural Encounters

    Bernadette Persaud (Guyana, b. 1946) Bernadette Indira Persaud was born in Berbice, a region of Guyana. Her great-grandparents were laborers on a Guyanese sugar plantation who had originally emigrated from their native Bihar, India, out of fear that their baby could be a victim of female infanticide. Persaud’s work as an artist, writer, and teacher has been deeply affected by her personal circumstances: as a woman of Indian descent in Guyana, she has lived under both colonial and postcolonial governments. As Natalie Hopkinson explains, during the 1970s Persaud was among a very few women artists “of Indian descent, [who were] painting, teaching and raising small children.” Persaud furthered her education at the University of Guyana and at the Burrows School of Art in Georgetown. An active artist since the 1980s, she is the first woman to win the National Visual Competition and Exhibition (1985). Today, Persaud is considered one of the most influential female artists in Guyana, which is due not only to her artistic works but to her prolific writings as well. Persaud's paintings address such diverse themes as postcolonial political and ideological repression, Guyana’s complex cultural realities, and her own Indo-Guyanese heritage. Visually, her work is known for its vivid depictions of Guyanese rain forests, which incorporate elements of French Impressionism as well as Hindu and Islamic symbols and motifs. Some of her most influential works are her lotus paintings from the 1980s and 1990s—which use the lotus flower as a symbol of purity and renewal, as in Buddhist and Hindu traditions—and Gentlemen in the Gardens, a 1980s series depicting camouflaged soldiers in Guyana’s forests. Her more recent work deals mostly with postcolonial issues, such as the closing of the Wales Sugar Estate mill, which had been active since the seventeenth century and was a powerful symbol of colonialism. Persaud's work has been shown around the world, and in 2014 the National Gallery of Art in Guyana organized her retrospective As New and As Old , coinciding with Arrival Day, which commemorates the May 1835 arrival of the first indentured workers at British Guyana. back to collection

  • Arturo Kubotta | Cultural Encounters

    Arturo Kubotta (Peru, b. 1932) Arturo Kubotta was born in Lima in 1932 to a Japanese father and Peruvian mother, and went on to pursue his artistic education in Peru, the United States, and Brazil, where he currently resides. Between 1953 and 1960, he studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Lima, and from 1962 to 1964 at the Art Institute of Chicago. During his years at the Escuela, he was influenced by both European Informalism and American Expressionism, at a time when the artistic customs of the Japanese Gutai movement were mingling with Informalism. Kubotta’s mature abstract style incorporates understated color and a variety of textures—characterized by scholars as “tactile mists”—to evoke an illusion of limitless time and space. His use of earth tones and rough textures calls to mind Pre-Columbian art, while his gestural strokes echo Japanese calligraphic lines. In 1961, Kubotta participated in the group exhibition Japanese Artists of the Americas at the Organization of American States ; two years later, the OAS hosted Kubotta’s first solo exhibition. Japanese Artists of the Americas. OAS exhibition pamphlet, 1961 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas Japanese Artists of the Americas. OAS exhibition pamphlet, 1961 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas 1/6 back to collection

  • Sonnylal Rambissoon | Cultural Encounters

    Sonnylal rambissoon (Trinidad and Tobago, b. 1926 - D. 1995) Sonnylal Rambissoon was born in Trinidad and Tobago, the grandson of indentured workers. His maternal grandfather migrated from India as a young man to work on the sugar plantations of the island’s Naparima region, and Rambissoon’s father was a sugarcane worker as well. Rambissoon’s artistic calling led him to Europe, where in 1964, he finished his studies at the Brighton College of Arts and Crafts in England, having spent the summer of 1963 in Paris at the Atelier 17 under the mentorship of the master printmaker Stanley W. Hayter. From 1964 to 1965 he took on postgraduate work at the University of London, and was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. ​ Although a prolific creator of drawings, paintings, and sculptures, Rambissoon is best known for his prints—particularly his etchings and engravings—which embrace an abstract vocabulary and a wide range of materials, including plywood, vinyl, and Masonite. In 1978, he participated in the Artes Gráficas Pan Americanas project (AGPA). After retiring from his job as a school principal in 1982, he spent two years in London, after which his work shifted largely to painting, becoming more realist and focused on landscapes. ​ Rambissoon exhibited at the AMA | Art Museum of the Americas in the exhibitions Contemporary Art From the Caribbean: Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (1972) and Three Artists from Trinidad and Tobago: Vera Baney, Ottaway Jones and Sonnylal Rambissoon (1976). His work became part of the AMA collection through the AGPA in 1981. back to collection

  • Kazuo Wakabayashi | Cultural Encounters

    Kazuo Wakabayashi (Japan, b. 1931) Born in Kobe, Japan, in 1931, Kazuo Wakabayashi was already a trained artist when he immigrated to São Paulo in 1961. There, he became an influential member of the Japanese-Brazilian artistic community, joining the Seibi-Kai (Grupo de Artistas Plásticos de São Pablo), in which Tomie Ohtake and Manabu Mabe were already important figures. In an interview, he explained how essential Mabe’s support was for him as a newly emigrated artist finding his place in the Japanese artistic community in Brazil. Wakabayashi quickly gained popularity in Brazil, Japan, and the United States; and in 1965, just four years after his arrival in Brazil, he participated in a group exhibition of Japanese-Brazilian artists at the Organization of American States, where he also held his first US solo show in 1969. In the 1940s and 1950s, while still in Japan, Wakabayashi experimented with figure studies, landscapes, and portraits of the female body. His later, mature work can be divided into two periods. The first—beginning with his arrival in Brazil and continuing through the 1960s and 1970s—can be categorized as “informalist”, while also adhering to geometric principles, and is marked by thick, texturized surfaces and abstract, monochromatic forms. Regarding this first period, he has explained that his goal was to detach himself artistically from the Japanese tradition and look for what he calls the “real Brazilian heart”—although (ironically) much of his work in this period seems evocative, in its structure, of Japanese calligraphy. In his second and latest period, beginning in the 1980s, he returned overtly to Japanese tradition, translating characteristics of traditional Japanese woodcuts, and specifically Ukiyo-e prints—e.g., decorative effects, bright colors, and simple curved outlines—into three-dimensional, large-scale paintings and prints. Wakabayashi of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1969 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas Wakabayashi of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1969 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas 1/2 back to collection

  • Rosendo Merel Choy | Cultural Encounters

    Rosendo Merel Choy (B. Panama) Rosendo Merel Choy is part of a family of artists of Chinese ancestry who joined forces to work on the #PANACHINA project. His grandfather arrived at the port of Colón, Panama, in the 1930s from Guangdong, and Rosendo was brought up with Chinese family traditions. ​ Merel Choy completed his studies in animation production and design at Canada’s ICARI Institute in 2001. As a video artist, he employs technologies such as 3D mapping and virtual reality to create interactive installations in which the viewer is encouraged to interact with or manipulate the artwork. Hecho en China (2016) is an interactive video piece that plays with elements of design and video games to manipulate images of Chinese products popular in Panama, such as Tiger Head batteries and White Rabbit Creamy Candy. His work has been exhibited at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Panama in 2016, and he was part of the installation team for Carlos Cruz Diez Chromointerference digital restoration at SCAD in 2017. He also participated in the #PANACHINA projects of 2014 and 2017. back to collection

  • Albert Chong | Cultural Encounters

    Albert Chong (Jamaica, b. 1958) "After locking up shop with gun in hand during the riots against the Chinese shopkeepers, my father got us all safe uptown. When we returned days later, all the shops on the street had been burned or looted but 6 Rose Lane was untouched and we were told by locals that our shop had been spared because we were good 'Chiney' people and because my father had done so much for the community…" — Albert Chong Albert Chong was born in 1958 in Kingston, Jamaica, into a family of Chinese-Jamaican merchants. At age 19, he migrated to New York City, where in 1981 he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts. In 1991, he received his MFA from the University of California in San Diego; that same year, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where we currently lives and works. Chong’s work is profoundly influenced by issues of race and identity, reflecting his own mixed heritage as a product of the Chinese diaspora in Jamaica as well as his intercultural African and Chinese family dynamics. His artistic production ranges from photography to installation, though he is best known for his photographic work. Early works, such as My Jamaican Passport (1990) and The Sisters (1986), are photographic interventions that combine family photos with such natural elements as bones, dried flowers, shells, old letters, beads, and (in some cases) inscribed copper frames. In these works, Chong addresses his family history, his Jamaican nationality, and his ethnic roots in Africa and China, adding symbolic allusions to his spirituality. The works from this period own and challenge the “Chiney” label that was applied to his family in Jamaica, one that put Chong in constant physical danger in his native country during the 1970s. Chong’s vast artistic output has been honored with such distinctions as a National Endowment of Arts fellowship in 1992 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998. In 2006, he was part of the exhibition New Possessions at the Art Museum of the Americas , celebrating the 44th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. back to collection

  • Samuel Rumaldo Choy | Cultural Encounters

    Samuel Rumaldo Choy (Panama, b. 1990) ​ Rumaldo Choy was born in 1990 in Panama City, to a Chinese-Panamanian family. His grandfather arrived at the port of Colón in Panama from Guangdong (Canton) in the 1930s, eventually supporting himself as a cook—a vocation that has left a deep impression on the Choy family, whose family events still revolve around Chinese dining traditions. These customs also appear as a vivid motif in Rumaldo Choy’s artwork. ​ A multifaceted artist, Rumaldo Choy works in photography, painting, installation, and graphic design, with an interest in Panama’s popular culture. He studied at the Universidad de Arte Ganexa and the Universidad Santa María de la Antigua. Raised in an extended family of multiethnic artists, Rumaldo Choy took the curatorial lead in creating the #PANACHINA project, inviting his cousins Manuel Choy, Cisco, and Rosendo Merel Choy—all part of this exhibition—in addition to some other young artists, to contribute work evocative of their experience as members of the panachina community in Panama. This project resulted in the groundbreaking #PANACHINA exhibition at the Atelier Teatro Amador in 2014; two years later, #PANACHINA was invited to participate as a collective at a group exhibition at the Museum de Arte Contemporáneo in Panama. Selected group members were then invited to join the 2017 exhibition Circles and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles. ​ For the #PANACHINA project, Rumaldo Choy has developed innovative work rooted in the traditions of Chinese food in Panama, exploring how this foreign cuisine and its customs have syncretized with local food traditions. A local maxim has it that “there is nothing more Panamanian than a Chinese breakfast.” In Pancho, the artist presents a typical Chinese “lazy Susan” that proffers both Chinese and Panamanian food, creating his own version of an authentic chino-panamanian meal. back to collection

  • About the Exhibition | Cultural Encounters

    ABOUT THE EXHIBITION no ocean between us Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & the Caribbean, 1945 – Present The fusion of different ethnicities is extremely important and gives rise to new cultural phenomena, migrants contribute recognizable elements despite the passage of time, in aspects of daily life, language, arts, ideas, values, and beliefs. — Mario Margulis and Birgitta Leander The richly and multifaceted cultural fabric of Latin America and the Caribbean cannot be fully understood without considering the great variety of threads woven by migratory processes from East, South, and Southeast Asia. No Ocean Between Us: Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & The Caribbean, 1945–Present , offers a fascinating glimpse of modern and contemporary art through an exploration of flows of migration from Japan, China, India, and Indonesia and the artistic impact in its host countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname. By framing artworks as active historical documents, artists in the exhibition reveal the multiple layers of complex and evolving cultural exchanges that have shaped the modern multiethnic societies of today. Although the initial Asian migration to Latin America and the Caribbean dates from the sixteenth century, it was not until the mid-eighteen century when it actively began due to labor shortages after the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean colonies in the 1830s. The new Latin American Republics, Brazil, Panama, Peru, Argentina, and Mexico along with the Spanish, English, and Dutch empires imported Asian indentured servitude as a low wage force for agriculture in most cases. ​ The artists in the exhibition explore themes related to the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic crossings of their own or their ancestors underscoring the expansive cultural legacies and transcultural processes. No Ocean Between US departs from the Organization of American States | Art Museum of the Americas permanent art collection to map familial and personal journeys through which art shapes discourse, seeking to gain a greater understanding of processes of contact and exchange, colonization and decolonization, assimilation and preservation of culture. The artworks shown here engage with many aspects of a quasi-system of slavery and more contemporary forms of globalization. They examine the difficult circumstances of arduous migratory journeys, exploitation and discrimination on sugar and tobacco plantations, and racial persecutions. While many of the thousands of workers who came to Latin America and the Caribbean in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century returned to their countries of origin, others settled down in their new homelands with cultural diasporas that attracted new Asian migratory flows after World War II. The Visual Arts Department of the Organization of American States, predecessor to the AMA | Art Museum of the Americas, recognized the contribution of the Asian diaspora to Latin America and the Caribbean as early as 1961 with the exhibition Japanese Artists of the Americas. Holding periodic art shows of Japanese Brazilian, Peruvian, Mexican, and Argentine artists as well as actively collecting them, it expanded an evolving canon of modern Latin American art. Similarly, in 1972 the exhibition Contemporary Art from the Caribbean: Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago , the AMA addressed the importance of Indian and Chinese traditions within the fusion of elements that comprise Caribbean culture and society.

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